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"Love one another," even when it's awkward. Sometimes, loving someone necessitates having awkward, difficult, or even downright dreadful conversations. Doing so with empathy, grace, and humility is more than just helpful--it is like Christ (cf. Php. 2:5-9; Eph. 4:1-3). The following nine tips for holding such conversations are inspired by an excerpt from the book Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. They are specifically geared toward conversations where we are discussing life with someone younger than we are, but really, they are helpful tips for tough conversations with just about anyone from any walk of life.

  1. Pay attention to how you’re feeling before you talk with them. Are you nervous or scared? Does this young person’s choices surface old memories or wounds in your own life?
  2. Start a conversation by affirming what you appreciate about them.
  3. Gently probe how they are feeling about the particular issue that concerns you, instead of diving into a lecture or tirade.
  4. Ask if they can think of any other ways they could respond to that issue.
  5. Help them explore the pros and cons of those potential responses.
  6. Share your concerns, and then ask what they think is wrong about any observations you share, as well as what may be right.
  7. Ask how you can help them make any shifts they desire to make.
  8. Shower them with the same response no matter what: unconditional love. (Even, or maybe especially, when they disappoint you.)
  9. Pray for them. And with them.